This is little gem of a book. A novella, written by Anita Kovacevic who also writes children’s books, is her first published adult work. It is a combination of incisive somewhat cynical satire of popular culture (reality shows specifically) and portrayal of human morality from strange but compelling point of view. This book is highly reflective makes you think about your place in the world.
Josephus Thibedeaux is an angry, self-absorbed man, obsessed with appearances and creating an empire that allows him to acquire the ultimate power and status. Once he amasses a fortune, he decides to build a monument to himself, a house in the center of the city that would be the envy of everyone who sees it. After years of planning and building, sweating tiny details in the construction of each room, Josephus decides to live in the house.
Once he crosses the threshold of his precious house, he is never seen again.
Almost a century goes by and Thibedeaux, seeing his death coming, throws a note out of his window that is his last will and testament. The note tells of his century long imprisonment and asks that his body be buried at his death. But he offers a warning: anyone entering the house may become imprisoned as he had. Because of his age, there is no one for him to bequeath the house to. He makes the odd decision to leave the house to anyone who manages to pass over the Threshold of his mansion and come out alive.
Mike Simmons is a young man who is the essence of being grounded and genuine. He lacks any consuming ambitions and lives a simple life. One of his few weaknesses is Urban Legends. When he finds that there is a new reality show that is actually named “Urban Legends” he can’t help but satisfy his curiosity. Not fond of reality shows, Mike is apprehensive. The show, as it turns out, is produced by a wealthy real estate developer who wants to take advantage of the spectacle provided by Thidbedeaux’s morbid last will and testament. The idea is to choose five “contestants” to enter the house and attempt to leave it. Of course the winner would inherit the house but also win a million dollars from the wealthy developer.
The contest is a spectacle and Kovacevic very accurately portrays the selfish broken personalities that inhabit the world of this the small band of reality television soldiers. What is notable is that each person involved in this project has past baggage and something to prove. It’s the need to be conspicuously successful and powerful, and its consequences, that are the theme underlying this story. It is a cautionary tale that is chilling.
Though she is describing crass and selfish people, the author manages an impressive level of poetic prose; there is a charming old fashioned feel to her language, despite the fact that the story takes place in present day. This book is incisive and well written. The end is jarring and moves firmly into the horror genre, yet it is surprisingly thoughtful considering the roller coaster ride you take as you read the rest of the book.
I would recommend this book to anyone; it is unique and through-provoking.